I always felt a connection to Lady Diana, or 'Laddy Dee' as they always amusingly pronounced her name in France. OK, so she was a member of the aristocracy, married into the royal family and was also tall- none of which I can lay claim to. But, like me, her mum had left when she was very young; like me, she was very close to her little brother and like me at one stage of life, she sure did have dubious taste in men.
Like our very own Queen of Hearts, I also became bulimic as a teenager. Unlike our very own Queen of Hearts, I followed that particular addiction up with a chaser of heavy drug use. My drug years coincided with, amongst other things, the release of Trainspotting (can it really be almost twenty years since that film came out?) At the time, the film was criticised for glamourising heroin use. Did these people see the same film? I thought that it was pretty succinct in its portrayal of the filth, desperation and shattered dreams that tend to follow that drug about like depraved groupies. And I should know, even though I never saw a dead baby crawling across the ceiling.
In 1997 I went to the Glastonbury festival for the first time. Radiohead headlined. Heavy rain had transformed the site into a Bosch*-like dystopia before the first guest had even arrived. Dennis Pennis entertained the crowd by singing 'Hava Nagila' when technical problems befell the Prodigy's set. That was one of the few moments I actually remember from those three days.
But my strongest memory is this one. As me and my friend Jimmy sat on a fence late at night above the muddy quagmire, our ruminant jaws and saucer eyes marking us out as Officially F***ed, we were befriended by a man in a blue parka. We'll call him Paul; I don't remember his actual name, because I very much doubt he told us, but MDMA fast-tracked him to the status of one of the family and soon we were planning our social lives together and talking about visiting him in London.
But our New Best Friend had other ideas. As we talked animatedly, Paul kept nonchalantly leading us further away from the action, luring us down from the fence to start off with, then further into the night, away from the flouro-bedecked ravers, shoe-gazing Madchester scenesters and over-priced beer vendors. Closer to the all-encompassing darkness.
In a moment of what must surely been divine intervention, my senses returned to me long enough to realise what he was doing. I grabbed Jimmy's arm. "He's going to rob us," I said, and we retreated quickly before our euphoric experience ended in a trip to the site police. Or worse.
I often think of addiction like the man in the blue parka, waiting patiently for the right moment to come around to get me alone. Quietly leading me further and further from life with its new-won friendship and empty promises, further from humanity, further from the crowds gathered to dance and celebrate being alive. It wanted me in that dark field, alone. It wanted me to itself.
And unlike the man in the blue parka, it succeeded for a while. I often think of that festival as marking the beginning of my slide into drugs hell, and I didn't slide out of it for another two years.
Johann Hari recently said that 'the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is human connection.' As the years have widened between myself and active addiction, I have come to see that this is the profoundest of truths regarding one of the most baffling conditions of the human psyche. It really is a disease of isolation. And it's connection that pulls us from the muddy swamp.
*Heironymus, not the brand of washing machine